In their career to date, Il Divo have already proven how the power of music transcends category and defies definition.
And now their latest album appears certain to bring a whole new level of Latin fuego to the extraordinary Il Divo story, whilst showing how - after more than a decade topping charts around the world - they still ooze with their legendary passion.
This is Il Divo’s seventh studio album – and their most ambitious yet. It is also, they are convinced, their sexiest. The flavours and sultry rhythms of Spain and Cuba, Argentina and Mexico give a nod to the quartet’s beginnings, whilst marking an exciting new chapter in their career. “AMOR & PASION” – an album full of love and romance.
Il Divo have performed in front of the world’s great and good – from President Barack Obama to Her Majesty the Queen. They have shared microphones with fellow superstars from Barbara Streisand to Celine Dion and their sell-out concerts have been attended by Hollywood icons including Tom Hanks and Robert De Niro.
To date, Il Divo have 30 million album sales under their belts. They have collected 160 gold and platinum awards in 33 countries. Not bad, considering the group worried there might not be a demand for their unique style of music.
Urs Buhler, Sebastien Izambard, Carlos Marin and David Miller were first brought together by Simon Cowell, in 2003. None of them suspected what a monumental impact their union would have. “I never thought we would be successful,” says Carlos. “I thought maybe we would do one record and then I would go back to my opera or my musical theatre or whatever.”
Twelve years, and four world tours later, Carlos is delighted to admit he was wrong. “You stop, and you think: Wow! We’ve preformed for royalty and presidents. Gorbachev came to meet us – Obama, Bush. When we played Madison Square Gardens with Barbara Streisand, there was a knock on the door in the intermission and there was Hilary Clinton. She said: Hello I’m a big fan. Can I have a photo? And then Bill Clinton arrived and said: Hey, I play the saxophone. We could do a duet.
“We’ve had amazing experiences. I see everything as a film passing in front of my eyes. Sometimes you don’t really believe what you have achieved…”
At their outset, Il Divo were four strangers of different nationalities, each with a distinguished but very different musical background. American tenor, David was a conservatory-trained opera singer, whose performance in Baz Luhrman’s La Boheme on Broadway had been critically acclaimed. Baritone, Carlos had been a child vocal prodigy – the ‘Little Caruso’ – recording his first album aged eight, with a career spanning stage and opera. Accomplished tenor, Urs, from Switzerland, played violin, clarinet, piano, guitar and drums and had even fronted a heavy metal band as a teenager, before choosing a classical route. Sebastien was a talented singer-songwriter, whose single Si Tu Savais had reached number one in the French charts.
Initially, all they shared was their passion for their music, together with a certain curiosity at having been recruited into the quartet. But when they sang together, something exceptional happened.
The stellar success of their first album, Il Divo (2004), which sold more than a million copies in the UK alone in its first six weeks, and in total topped the charts in 12 countries, left no doubt that Il Divo were far more than music industry hype.
Their crossover of the classical and the popular, the multiple languages, the crescendo the operatic brings to much-loved hits and their refusal to be intimidated by the preconceptions of what was high-brow and what was commercial – all stirred a longing in audiences. Around the world, a record buying public – who had long been dismissed as not quite discerning enough for opera, yet who had embraced the Three Tenors and Andrea Bocelli – welcomed the depths and textures and the thrilling sensuality the four very different voices of Il Divo created together.
Of course, their Armani-clad physiques did not hurt either. When Il Divo appeared on stage, standing ovations accompanied every song along with a constant flow of flowers to the stage.
After their platinum debut, subsequent albums – Ancora (2005), Siempre (2006), The Promise (2008) and Wicked Game (2011) built on the group’s winning combination of virtuoso and mass appeal. Their 2013 recording, A Musical Affair, was their celebration of Broadway and West End classics. And it was whilst on a promotional tour for that album in Spain, that the possibility of an album of Latin music surfaced.
“Somebody brought up the suggestion,” recalls Urs. “And we were all like: that’s a great idea! For me it’s amazing. After 11 years, we always find something again that gets us genuinely excited. I am so inspired by this album. A lot of the music was completely unknown to me before. And it’s beautiful music. It’s very happy, very uplifting, very passionate – it is music full of love.”
Working with Columbian producer and multiple Latin Grammy winner Julio Reyes Copello, Il Divo have recorded 12 songs spanning a century of traditional tangos, smouldering boleros and classic mambas. Working alongside the Latin Division of Sony - whose expertise in this wonderful repertoire is second to none - the music hails from Spain and Cuba, from Central and South America. On the playlist are familiar hits – such as Julio Iglesias’ iconic A Las Mujeres Que Yo Ame (To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before), Gloria Estefan’s resonant Si Voy A Perderte (Don’t Wanna Lose You), along with Himno De La Alegria, an exciting Latin treatment of Beethoven’s Ode To Joy, which Carlos says feels like their very own Nessun Dorma.
Some of the tracks will be new to non-Spanish audiences. Others will seem puzzlingly familiar – Por Una Cabeza is the tango to which a blind Al Pacino dances in Scent of a Woman. Besame Mucho is perhaps the most memorable bolero of all time. The tango, Volver, Urs says, is as much of a classic in the Spanish-speaking world as My Way is in the US and UK.
All members of the group agree that the rhythms and passion of the music were a gift for their voices. Sebastien describes making the album as: “the best experience I’ve had with Il Divo.” He says: “I’m super proud of this album. I love it. And I think our fans are going to be quite surprised. The way we sing is different. We’re known for our big endings but here a lot of the voices are alone.
“In the studio, singing every track, I really wanted to dance. Corny as it sounds, I love every one of the songs. They’re super sexy arrangements. It’s a sexy album. Carlos and I were talking about how excited we are about taking Amor & Pasión and this incredible music on the road, when we embark on our fifth world tour in 2016. Maybe we will finally get to dance!”
The Latin sensuality of the music is underpinned by the use of Spanish for every song. It is, David says, the perfect language for Il Divo: “When we started 11 years ago, our directive was to take this handful of songs and inject them with Latin charisma, passion, romanticism. So we took these well-known songs like Unbreak My Heart and My Way and we translated them into Spanish or Italian.
“The Spanish language lends itself to our music– the four of us have different musical backgrounds, different national sensibilities. Spanish was the language that could flow easily from all four of us. It allowed the changing of the gears. So here we are doing an album of the music that kind of inspired the whole process to begin with. There’s something very special about it.”
This is an album full of fire and passion, sensuality and love. Il Divo like to think it’s their greatest yet…